Staff at a KwaZulu-Natal rhino orphanage are reeling in shock after a woman was sexually assaulted and two rhino killed in a horrific poaching-related incident this week.
In a brutal illustration of the severity of poaching‚ a heavily-armed gang hit the Findimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage – at the Thula Thula reserve in northern KZN – on Monday night‚ tying up staff and killing the two rhino in front of them.
In the process‚ one woman was sexually assaulted and other rhino caregivers beaten. They are receiving medical and psychological care.
Over the course of a few hours‚ the two rhino‚ Impi and Gugu‚ were attacked while the staff were being held hostage. One was killed outright‚ and the other had to be euthanised the following morning because of the severity of her injuries.
The pair were due to be dehorned and moved out of the orphanage in a week’s time – leading to a belief that there was an element of an inside job involved.
Karen Trender‚ who runs the orphanage‚ told TMG Digital on Wednesday that security was being beefed up and plans to move the staff members and rhino to a new‚ secret location were well underway.
“If you work in this game and work in a facility like this… it’s a constant concern. It’s something that’s on everybody’s mind at all times. We always understood and worked around that they’re coming for the rhino; that if you don’t interfere they’ll leave you alone. They will just get horn and get out.
“But this was totally different. The staff did exactly what they were trained to do. But still they were attacked‚” she said.
Explaining what happened on Monday night‚ Trendler said the gang overpowered the armed guard on duty‚ tied him up and extracted information from him. Then‚ having gotten information from the guard‚ timed their attack on the facility to perfection.
“Grabbed some of the staff and held them hostage. They then tied them up; while they were tied up there was harassment and assault‚” she said.
Trender said everyone associated with the facility was taking strain.
“It’s a double trauma for them. As somebody who works for rhino to see the animal you nurtured from brink of death as a result of poaching…to have it killed in front of you is beyond brutal. Then there’s the double whammy of the assault‚” she said.
Police were on the scene on Wednesday‚ with dogs in tow. There were reports of two arrests‚ but this could not immediately be confirmed.
– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE